A Christmas controversy turns deadly for a tiny New England village in a mystery that offers “a sharp perspective on the nasty smugness of small towns” (The New York Times).
Bethlehem, Vermont, is a sleepy little town, distinguished from the neighboring hamlets by its Christmas pageant. The holiday spectacular dates back generations; as the village’s only tourist attraction, it brings in much of the money that keeps Bethlehem afloat. The festivities are held on publicly owned land, which might be a slight violation of the separation of church and state, but no one has ever complained until Tish Verek comes to town. Verek is a true-crime writer from New York, and not long after she kicks up a fuss about the pageant, she’s shot dead in an apparent hunting accident. Anyone in Bethlehem could have fired the fatal bullet, and it’s up to ex–FBI investigator Gregor Demarkian to decide which Christmas-obsessed villager is really a grinch in disguise.